Outriggers: 5 Reasons to Consider Using Canoe & Kayak Stabilizing Floats
With the recent addition of outriggers to our product offerings, we have been giving more thought to the value stabilizing floats bring to individual canoe and kayak paddlers, anglers and adaptive kayaking programs.
While they don’t exactly contribute to a sleek aesthetic, we don’t care much about what others think when it comes to what a kayak looks like or how it's outfitted. If it gets people out paddling independently and it’s safe, we’re all for it! Heck, if you want to add an umbrella, strands of neon lights, and 15 different rod holders, more power to you!
So are they right for you and what are the best kayak outriggers? Read on to find out!
Five Advantages of Using Stabilizing Floats
1. Outriggers Add Stability
Kayak outriggers offer an added level of stability and security to paddlers, helping balance the kayak and lowering the likelihood of it tipping over. No surprise here since that’s why they were originally developed – to add stability to the vessel.
We were curious just how much stability floats added to a kayak, so we did some testing. Our first tester was a strong, able-bodied 18-year-old. Despite his best effort and numerous attempts, he could not tip over the kayak when it was equipped with outriggers. (See video.) It was only when the side arms were pushed into the center bar entirely so that the pontoons could be moved closer to the kayak that another tester, with significant effort, was able to tip the kayak. (See that video here.) Interestingly, since the arms aren't intended to be used in this manner, the pontoons would generally never be in such a position; we simply had to do it for the experiment to work.
Important Note: There are circumstances where it is possible for a paddler to tip over in a kayak, even when it’s using outriggers, for example from the wake of a boat or on a very windy day. It can happen quickly, and it’s very challenging to flip it back over once it does. Knowledge and practice of self- and assisted-rescue techniques are critical for any paddler using them.
2. Kayak Stabilizers Bring Peace of Mind to Novice Paddlers
For many paddlers -- especially new ones -- stabilizing floats provide peace of mind. They help ease paddlers' fears and boost their confidence, which means they're more likely to want to go kayaking again in the future.
One of our long-time customers, an avid paddler with quadriplegia, recently invited her family to go kayaking with her for the first time ever. Several family members were new to kayaking and one was afraid of the water, so they were initially reluctant to go. The paddle guide leading the group offered to equip a couple of the boats with kayak outriggers, In total, three of the kayaks used them, including our customer who's using the Versa Paddle. It made all the difference, creating a rare opportunity for the entire family to spend time together being active outdoors. According to our customer, it "made my dream happen of getting my whole family out on the water" and checked off an item on her bucket list.
It's situations like these where outfitters and kayak rental companies choose to have stabilzing floats on-hand. They’re helpful for use with novice paddlers, including children, older adults, and paddlers with poor coordination or balance.
3. Versatility: Outriggers for Kayaks or Canoes
Like its kayak brethren, canoes can also be quite tippy. So if you're going to buy some floats, why not have the versatility to have them fit both kayaks and canoes, like ours do!
The 40” center arm of our canoe stabilizers can be attached to the gunwales of a canoe (or placed the front or rear of the kayak). With the floats attached, the stabilizing bars expand for a total wideth of 69” to 83” inches. When installed properly, the canoe outriggers are set to ride just above the water line to minimize drag and do not impede the paddler's stroke.
4. Outriggers Improve Balance for Standup Fishing
When you're busy casting, changing lures or reeling in that big catch, you're not focused on balancing your kayak or canoe. That means an unexpected bump or a shift in position might send your gear flying off the side of the boat or, worse yet, launch you into the water! Even if you have a fishing kayak that’s designed for standing, you still run the risk of losing everything (including yourself) in the drink.
Pontoon outriggers mitigate those risks. Anglers worldwide rely on outriggers to provide added steadiness; others use them for offshore fishing or trolling with multiple lines. If nothing else, they provide a great alternative to remaining seated in your canoe or kayak the entire time.
5. Pontoons Enhance Safety in Adaptive Paddling Programs
Chances are if you've been involved in an adaptive paddling program -- through a community non-profit, a parks program, or a veterans paddling group, you've seen at least one kayak equipped with outriggers. That’s because people with paralysis, spinal cord injuries or limited mobility benefit from the added stability outriggers bring. The further the floats extend out on each side of the kayak, the more balance they deliver, giving paddlers, volunteers and program staff an added level of assurance that everyone will remain safe (though it is important to understand that tipping is still possible). Outriggers also make entering and exiting the kayak a steadier, more positive experience.
What to Look for in Kayak Stabilizers
There are many reasons paddlers seek the added balance and stability that outriggers provide. Sometimes it's because of owning a particularly tippy kayak or canoe. Other times they might have poor balance due to a neurological condition or age. Or, it might be they're new to kayaking or want more stability from their angling vessel. Whatever the reason, here are some features to consider.
Material: Do you want a rigid, durable material for your outriggers such as polyethylene plastic, or will a lightweight inflatable set do the trick? What about the side arms: are they aluminum, fiber glass or plastic? Make sure to understand whether the materials are resistant to corrosion, especially if you plan to use them in saltwater conditions.
Size: What’s the size and weight of your vessel with you in it? Can the outriggers handle that weight? Also, consider the size of the outriggers themselves. Generally, the shorter the outrigger, the slower and less hydrodynamic it is. In most cases, longer is better.
Price: If you rule out inflatables and DIY outriggers, most rotomolded sets range from $160 to as much as $650. Oddly enough, we found there isn’t always a direct correlation between price and quality. More on that below.
Adjustability & Removability: Can the side arms be adjusted in length (e.g., are they telescopic) or must they remain at a fixed width? Can the height of the outriggers be adjusted? Can they be removed easily for storage?
A Word About Angle Oar’s Outriggers
As you can see from the videos earlier in this post, we put our new outriggers to the test before we decided to start offering them to customers. At a price point of $279, we were ecstatic to learn they performed as well as, if not better, than comparable kayak outriggers on the market. So, they are more cost effective and quality is not compromised. It's a win-win!
Their hydrodynamic design and generous 43” length means minimal drag through the water and excellent stability. Our kit works with both kayaks and canoes, and regular installation hardware is included. If you’re doing a blind install on a kayak, i.e., you either can’t reach or don’t have access to the inside of the kayak, we’re happy to send you a special set of hardware for that purpose. Just ask.
In the meantime, give some serious thought as to whether stabilizing floats might be a good addition to your paddling equipment.